The Los Angeles metropolitan area is a monster. I moved to Redlands, a far eastern "suburb" of LA in late June, 2012, for an internship with Esri, which creates what is perhaps the most widely used mapping (GIS) software. I use the term suburb loosely--Redlands is a full 70 miles east of downtown LA. Many people from the area that I've talked to scoff at the idea of Redlands being a suburb of LA. While it certainly is part of the contiguous urban agglomeration which had its beginnings in the central city of LA, the sheer distance from LA makes it difficult to call Redlands a suburb. Functionally, it is dubious whether there is sufficient interaction between LA and Redlands for it to be linked in a central city - suburb relationship. The distance and traffic make it prohibitively time-consuming to commute to LA during typical commuting hours. The terminology Angelenos use to refer to various parts of the region -- such as Ventura County, Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley, the Inland Empire -- reflect the local conception that the LA area does not consist of a single, tightly bound whole, but is rather as a continguous but not necessarily fucntionally connected whole. One region bleeds into another, but the bleed isn't transitive from far-flung Redlands to LA.
It's driving from Redlands to LA that helps one understand the sheer monstrous size of the metropolitan area. So far, everytime I've driven to LA, I have shaken my head in disbelief at the interminable succession of suburbs carpeting the land, of the CO2 and other exhaust that we can't help but fill our valleys with, of the decades upon decades it'll take to change the urban environment enough to allow people to change their transport behaviors.
It's incredibly difficult to get to know LA. It's so large. There are so many cities and towns, few distinguishing themselves visually from the next on the freeway. And yet I knew coming here that LA was by some accounts the most diverse metropolitan area in the country. Arguably, though, LA would be better characterized by the term "Mexican-American" rather than "the most diverse metropolitan area, since 49% of the population is of Mexican descent, much larger than the non-Latino white population of 29%. It's been said that Los Angeles is the second largest Mexican city in the world. Nonetheless, LA is a diverse city. There are Koreatowns, Little Armenias, Little Tokyos, and there are multiple areas in the region whose freeway-side billboards are mostly in Chinese (interestingly, I've mostly seen ones using the complex characters that are official in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore). I know about the Persians, the Russians, the Jews. I want to better understand how this city has arranged itself, and one of the foremost ways cities do so is by ethnicity. There is no way in hell I'm going to figure this out, especially without a car. Even with a car, it would take months of CO2 belching and $50 tanks of gas to reach my goal. So I have turned to Census data and maps.
These maps were made using Esri's arcpy.mapping (python) module to automate production of a map series programmatically. I downloaded the data (all from the 2011 American Community Survey) manually from the US Census Bureau website.